PESHAWAR: The introduction of the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Bill in the Senate, the upper house of parliament, has rung alarms in the tobacco growing districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a PML-Q Senator had tabled the bill in the Senate of Pakistan to prohibit all kind of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship of the tobacco industry adding that no person will advertise, promote and sponsor tobacco and any tobacco product on the media or any place and any vehicle. The development has spread waves of concerns in the growers attributing the steps towards the prohibition of the cultivation of tobacco to deprive them of their top cash crop and different kinds of social sector humanitarian activities under way in the tobacco growing districts under the head of the Capital Social Responsibility (CSR). In this connection, the tobacco growers of district Swabi held a meeting in the Hujra of Afsar Khan, at Malikabad, Union Council Chaknodah, to review the situation in the wake of the introduction of the bill in the Senate. A large number of tobacco growers attended the meeting and deliberated upon the issue. The growers were unanimous in their opinion that tobacco was their lone cash crop and main source of livelihood and vowed to resist any attempt of the government towards the prohibition of the cultivation of the crop. Speaking on the occasion, Khan Sher, a grower of Yar Hussain said that Swabi was the largest Virginia tobacco producing district of the province followed by other districts including Mardan, Charsadda, Mansehra and Buner. He said that the farmers of the district had small agriculture land holding, which was not sufficient for other crops, particularly vegetables. He said that due to the lack of demand and lower prices other agricultural products used to into waste while on the other hand tobacco was the sole crop, whose sale was insured with the industry. Furthermore, he said that the crop was cultivated on the demand of the tobacco companies after fixation of the support price for each year. He urged the government for not snatching the means of livelihood from them as they were highly dependent on the tobacco crop. Azam Khan, the president of the Growers Coordination said that beside growers, the crop was also highly beneficial for the country and generated a revenue of over Rs.100 billion under the head of Federal Excise Duty (FED). He was of the opinion that instead of its prohibition, the government should pay subsidy to its growers. Another grower, Liaquat Yousafzai, said that more than 1.5 million people were associated with the tobacco business directly and indirectly while the number of growers was 80,000. He said that out of 180 million to 200 million populations, a large number of people were using tobacco and on abolition the country would have to import tobacco from other countries that would cost a heavy foreign exchange. Similarly, Mohammad Ayaz, another grower said that the crop generated economic activity to the volume of Rs.300 billion in the country. He said that though agriculture was a provincial subject, but in case of the tobacco crop it was under the control of the centre, which was sheer injustice with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He cautioned that any attempt to ban the cultivation of the crop would have dangerous consequences and situation in the tobacco growing districts would become worse than Waziristan. He attributed the high ratio of literacy in district Swabi to the production of the tobacco crop. The prohibition of the promotion of tobacco products would also have a negative impact on the activities, which include the establishment of an Eye Hospital established under the auspices of the tobacco industry, which is providing eye treatment facilities to the people of the area while the industry was also operating a mobile dispensary and had installed water filtration plants in various villages of the district. Furthermore, the industry was also providing financial assistance to non-governmental organisations by the provision of missing facilities in public sector schools and holding of summer camps in schools to prevent the trend of child labour in the province. Any attempt towards ban on the cultivation of the crop would deprive the people of these facilities. The growers of District Swabi have vowed to resist all kind of attempts for banning the cultivation of the tobacco crop and threatened to stage a sit-in in front of the Parliament House to foil any such move.